Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Last Post

Greetings from Canada!
I am officially sitting down to write my last post on this blog. It will hopefully be short and sweet.
I made it to my host family's house on Sunday night and had a nice last evening with them. We had apple beignets as part of dinner which were delicious! I was also given a few gifts: 2 bottles of wine for my collection and a couple of Belgian beers for my Dad.
The next day I had to say goodbye to them, which was sad. At least I know that I will (hopefully!!) be back. Naturally I had a few issues at the airport... such as overweight baggage... ahem. I had to pay for one extra bag plus an overweight bag. Of course this was the moment that my Visa card decided not to work, so I had to run to an ATM. How embarrassing. I finally made it on the first plane, which was a very short ride. We luckily got into Paris early, because though I had 2 hours until my next flight I had to walk for what felt like forever and then wait in a long security line before arriving at my gate. I was fortunate enough to find a friend at the gate though! A girl from my old high school was doing an exchange for three months with the same program I did my first exchange with. I actually took the airplane with the entire group of Canadian students, which was pretty fun. I changed my first seat so that a husband and wife could sit together, then I was stuck beside a man who did not know how to keep his elbows to himself. Finally, I got up to go to the washroom and noticed that my friend had an empty seat beside her, so I switched one last time and had a very nice flight.
When I got home, I discovered some cheques from the government which more than paid for my excess baggage. Hooray.
Tuesday morning I woke up at 5:30am, unable to sleep more, and yesterday it was 6:30am. Today I managed to sleep in until 7:30am, which was just great. I have been unpacking, going to appointments, and enjoying doing a bit of cooking again. Tomorrow I head down to Ryerson Camp for my staff training weekend, which I am pretty excited for.
I definitely know that I am back in Canada, because random people say hi to me and the public service workers are extraordinarily pleasant.
Well, I think that will be all. I have really enjoyed writing these posts this year, and I hope that for those who stuck around, you enjoyed reading them too. If I ever take another exciting adventure, I'll be sure to write about it again.
See you around!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Au revoir et bonjour!

Goodbye France, hello Canada!
Well, here it is. My last full day in this beautiful country. It is incredibly hard to believe that it was eight months ago that I was getting on a plane to come here... even more incredible to think about all that I have done this year!
This morning, I went to church here for the last time and it was a really good service. I talked to a man that I usually talk to, and he promised to keep in touch. He is in his mid-50s and moving to the USA at the end of May for a year, and hopefully more, he says. It was always nice to have someone who wanted to chat with you after church! He often talked with the Americans and I and was always interested in how we were finding France. The speaker today was also really good. He was 82 years-old, just a regular member of the congregation, and he just spoke about who he thinks Jesus is. The best part though was when he compared how joyful he was on liberation day after WWII was over and how we should be 100 times more joyful because of our liberation in Jesus. He spoke a bit about what it was like living during the occupation, and it was so amazing to listen to. We just don't have that kind of memory in Canada! Overall, it was a great final service.
And now, I wait! My host family is going to pick me up and take me to their house for the night, before bringing me to the airport tomorrow. I'm just not sure what time they will be back from wherever they are, so until then I will just wait and chill in my room. Pretty exciting!!
As much as I would love to stay in France, I think I am ready to go home. I mean, it definitely helps that now basically all my friends are gone. The incessant April showers that have been continuing for over a week also don't hurt! But really, I love France. I know I will be back, but I don't know when. Someday! It has been an amazing year, and I have learned so much. I am so thankful that I had this experience!
The nice thing about saying goodbye to one thing means that I get to say hello to many others. When I get back, I have a staff training weekend for my summer camp, a 15-day placement at my old public school, a bridal shower and wedding for my friend, a summer full of new adventures at camp, and then fourth year at Trent! So as sad as it is to leave France, I have so much to look forward to. I won't have time to miss it! Well, that's not true, I will miss it, but I will be so busy it won't really be too bad. Like I said earlier in a post, the people who made this year so amazing will be back in Canada with me, so that is going to make the transition easier I think. Plus, no matter where I am, what I see, or what I do, I always love coming home.
So I suppose I will write one more blog post when I am home to close off the year... but until then, have a great weekend and start to the week!

Friday, April 27, 2012


Yikes. Suddenly, it is Friday! How did that happen?
Yet again, I thought that my last week was going to drag on. But nope, it has flown by. I will try to recount what has happened!
On Tuesday, I had another great sleep-in (so unlike me... it needs to stop happening) and then I accompanied my friend to LeClerc to chop off all her hair!! So much fun. She was really nervous, but her short hair looks so awesome. Plus, she got to give her family and friends a surprise when she returned.
In the afternoon, I walked around with Siobhain and her visiting sister, and we saw the typical Nantes sights... cathedral, castle, the usual.
On Wednesday, my friend Louise from Angers came to visit me and we were lucky to have some really nice weather for the day. We had crepes for lunch and then I showed her the city. It was awesome to catch up before I left, and we made sure to say "see you soon" rather than "goodbye." We found that 4 years passed by surprisingly fast, so whether we see each other in Canada or France next time, it will be here before we know it.
I guess yesterday was Thursday! I started packing in the morning, and then went back to the public school to hang out with the kiddies again. They were even crazier this time! But still super cute, so I quite enjoyed myself. I was exhausted after only three hours with them... I honestly don't know how primary teachers do it. So much respect.
Then I PACKED my room up last night, determining that I have too many clothes and too much STUFF in general. I don't know where it all came from. This morning I had to cart all my stuff downstairs to Michelle's room, where I am staying until Sunday. My suitcases are packed and I still have stuff strewn about the room. Some of it is garbage, some of it is going to have to find a home asap... Then, I did a mad clean of my room and was pretty impressed with the outcome. Apparently it wasn't up to standard though, because I missed some dust a had to re-do some parts for the cleaning people. Embarrassing.
Now for the rest of the day!
I don't have much planned. I'm hoping to go for a run once my lunch digests, because it has been a week since my last run (!!!!!!) which is just unacceptable. Then I might just chill... watch a movie, whatever. Tomorrow I'll hang out with Siobhain for a bit, since we are the only ones left! I might take some time to write a bit more though. I bought a notebook, that I thought I would write in tons these last two weeks but I haven't written a thing. So maybe it is the time to write...
Anyways, whew. What a crazy week and crazy day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Crazy French Kiddies

This afternoon, after a lovely sleep-in that involved lots of resetting my alarm, I went over to my host mom`s school  to spend some time in her class to see how a French elementary school works. I had a lot of fun and the kids were super cute!
After battling the nasty storm that has been brewing all day, I made it to the school. They don't have a playground with grass, just concrete, but the kids seemed to have fun regardless. I was wearing my pink raincoat, and pinned on it I have 5 pins that I collected at Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach. I had no idea how much of a distraction these pins would be... the kids would not leave me alone! They wanted a pin, they wanted to know what different pins meant, where I got them from, how they stayed on, etc. They are quite the inquisitive bunch!!
The first had gym class, then storytime, recess, and some reading and colouring. One thing I noted was that they kids did not get out of school until about 4:45... what a long day for such young children. I had a blast though.
So like I said, these kids were so curious. I think it was partly because it is there first day back after a two week vacation, but they were crazy! Asking so many questions. But it was good seeing kids wanting to know more, even if they were a little wild about it today. They also all wanted to know how to pronounce their names in English and found it hilarious to hear me say them. I got to listen to them read some passages and also helped them out with their work, like if they didn't know how to spell a word. Pretty typical for 7-year olds. The fun part, though, was that it was all in French! I definitely had to listen closely so that I could understand what they were saying, and I even had to explain a couple small pronunciation points. My favourite part was listening to them speak French, especially when they used the typical French words and phrases like "ohhhlalalalala" and "c'est pas possible!". It was a great way to spend the afternoon and I think I will go back one other time this week! Why not?
In other news, in one week I will be on a plane home to Canada!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Second Last Weekend!

So I left my parents on Tuesday, and literally thought I would be bored out of my mind for a few days until my friends returned. Luckily I have been keeping decently busy, running, visiting with friends, getting some administrative stuff done... and the days are just flying by!
Since I have written, I have been back to La Cigale with my friend (and roomie) Michelle for the BEST hot chocolate ever. It seriously is amazing. And I finally got a snapshot of the interior of La Cigale as well!

So beautiful!
On Saturday, I went over to my host family's for lunch and then we went on an awesome little hike. We drove to a little village not far from Nantes to check out a place where my host parents often went hiking when they were younger. You are technically not allowed in the area, but everyone goes anyways. There is an old ruined castle that was never finished. It started to be built around the time of the French Revolution, but the owner stopped the construction when his daughter drowned in the Loire River. Now, it is just a shell of a castle, but very beautiful and with a fantastic view of the valley.
Plus, it was so great to be in the country in some fresh air!
Old house in the village

The Loire

Faux chateau

Watching the storm roll in
Today I mostly just took it easy, played some music with some friends and went for a nice walk. Tomorrow, I am going to my host mom's school to visit her class, which will be really fun and something great to do. This week I am looking forward to a few visits from friends, especially my friend Louise who is coming to visit on Wednesday. I visited her in Angers back in November, so we are looking forward to hanging out again. I also will be doing some running, some shopping for gifts, and attempting to pack up my room! Oh, and saying goodbye to some of my friends who are leaving on Wednesday!
I can't believe that in one week tomorrow, I will be on a plane home. I thought these last few weeks would pass by slowly, but I can see that I was wrong. They are flying! Just like the rest of the year! And pretty soon I will be back in Canada, enjoying being Canadian again and hearing English all the time. Hopefully the weather warms up a bit!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Probably long over-due, I thought I would write a little post about the trains here in France. Just because they are so awesome!
In Canada, we have Via Rail. Which is ok, I suppose, but nothing like the speedy, efficient, and vastly networked trains in France. Last year, I wrote a final history paper on the effects of the railroad in my hometown, Port Elgin, and the surrounding area. Sadly, today all that is left our of train is a little ice cream station at the main beach with a kiddy train that takes you around North Shore park very slowly. But once we were quite well connected!
In France, you can basically get anywhere you want to go by train. There are still problems, like strikes and people jumping in front of trains, but besides that the travel is always smooth. The TGV trains (trains de grande vitesse=really fast) rock me to sleep like a baby. It is beautiful. It also keeps you quite connected, and especially for a foreign student without a car it gives you some freedom. I have used the train to visited friends in other cities, to visit different sites, to go on trips with friends, etc.
One thing I love about the train stations is that they remind me a bit of the past. People leave on the train and have their loved-ones waving goodbye to them on the platform. In addition to leaving there is also the returning, when I get to see people being reunited again. There is something more... I don`t know, classic about waving goodbye/hello from a train window than from a car one. There are also always people running to catch their train, which I find amusing unless I am that person...
Sometimes I meet really friendly people on the train, and sometimes I don't talk to anyone. The French trains are often really quiet, which allows you to read/write/sleep in peace. It is quite a great way to travel.
Canada is such a huge country, and you almost need a car in order to travel anywhere. I have never taken the GO train or bus, but I've heard it has its flaws too. And you can really only use the system if you are in the GTA. Doesn't work so well for Bruce County. Now if only we had enough people using the trains to make it worthwhile... I could see it being difficult to get people to give up their cars. We also have less people... Who knows, maybe if gas prices continue to rise a better rail system could be a possibility! Would cut down on pollution too!
Whew. Anyways, sorry if that was scattered. In short, if you come to France, take the train! It is a lot of fun and a little nostalgic.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

La Rochelle with Mom and Dad

Well, as I write this, I am back in Nantes! My parents dropped me off at the train station today and were on their way back to Paris; they will fly back to Canada tomorrow. It was sad to see them go, as we had a really great trip together. I wish they could have stayed longer so that they could see more of France! But I think the trip has convinced them to come back and see what they missed!
So I will recap our time in La Rochelle and then put up some photos of our stay.
It was definitely a great way to end the vacation. La Rochelle was very laid back, we didn't do much, and though it wasn't hot it was very sunny. On Sunday we just walked around the harbour, had a beer at the Irish Pub, had dinner, and enjoyed our nice hotel. On Monday, we went on a nice long walk to another beach and took in the sights. Then we went back to the pub because we could sit outside in the sun. My Dad had another pint while my mom and I went shopping. I bought one shirt, but my mom bought a whole outfit that looks great on her. Now she will have a French outfit! Always a good souvenir. We went back to out hotel for a bit of wine from the winery, and then went out for our last dinner. We had another delicious meal. And more great conversation! As my parents pointed out, this is the most they have seen me in a long time. It was good to spend lots of time with my parents.
So clearly, we had a relaxing couple of days. But after all the sights we saw, it was nice not to have a plan! I think everything about this trip was fantastic (though Vimy could've used less rain...) and it was awesome to be able to also see my two host family's and share that experience with my parents.
Now I have about a week and a half before coming home! Weird!!! I have some things planned, but will also be enjoying unstructured time... before the craziness begins! I have a staff training weekend for camp, 15-day placement in May, a wedding, and moving to camp at the beginning of June... then onto 4th year! So I will enjoy the break while it lasts :)

Meal in La Rochelle

Harbour lights

Harbour in the sun!


view from the top of the tower


Fishy entree!
Last night meal!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Guest Post from Dad

My Aunt Teresa sent me a message yesterday. She said that she was enjoying reading my updates on my travels with Mom and Dad, but she thought it would be neat if one of my parents wrote a post from their perspective. I thought that that sounded like a great idea. So here you go, a post written by my dad about our day yesterday. I added a couple little note but the rest is him! I would have put pictures in, but I unfortunately left my camera memory card in my computer yesterday. Smart.

Nicole has asked me to write on her blog from my perspective about our day in Nantes. It started off with a ride on the Tramway to meet Nicole for a run along the river. Like everything else when you travel, it takes a little time to become used to a different transit system, but with Nicole’s directions, we were able to meet up with her and only be five minutes late. The weather was cool but the sun came out and warmed us up. The circuit that we ran was along a river on a dirt path that reminded me a lot of the paths we run at home. You have to be careful as the surface levels can change and if you’re not careful, you could take a spill, which unfortunately happened to Nicole’s mother. She stumbled over some concrete and hit the ground hard. She was unhurt except for her hands, which she used to break her fall. After a few choice words, which she never spoke when Nicole was little, we got her up and inspected the damage. She scrapped up the bottom of her hands pretty good, but was still able to finish the run and after a warm shower and some bandages, she was ready to tackle the rest of the day. We joined Nicole for some lunch in a park, baguettes as usual (so much bread over here), and she showed us some sites (another castle, another cathedral, I mean, couldn’t they find anything else to build) for a few hours. After the tour, we stopped into an upscale restaurant for some coffee. According to Nicole, it’s the most famous restaurant in Nantes, and would probably be out of our price range or clothing range if we tried to eat dinner there. [From Nicole: It’s called La Cigale. If I had not forgotten my memory card in my camera, I would put some photos up.] We then went back to our quaint hostel (it didn’t SAY hostel on-line) [from Nicole: he insists it is a hostel but it’s not. It was just a 2 star hotel that we found last minute.] and packed up some gifts to take to our dinner with Nicole’s host family.  Nicole has already described her host family in previous posts and we found them to be exactly as she had said. They were very warm, inviting, gracious and extremely hospitable. From the initial Belgian beers (8.7%!!), to the champagne, wine, food and a final small drink of Chartreuse (only 55%!!), the evening was excellent. Nicole once again acted as our interpreter, but we were able to converse for short periods of time before we needed her assistance. We were asked by the family what we liked the best about France. Now, we could’ve said the Eiffel Tower, Versaille, Notre Dame, chateaus or any number of their other historical sites because they were all wonderful. However, what we told them we most liked was how we were able to visit with the two French families that we now know and experience their way of life. You can go to many places in the world and stay in lovely hotels, but until you experience the local flavour of places, you don’t quite get the full effect of the visit. Of course none of this would have been impossible were it not for Nicole. As I have told many people, when you are parents and opening up the world for your children, it’s a wonderful gift that at some point, they start opening the world up for you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Montrichard Winery and Arrival in Nantes

Well, I am currently sitting at my desk in Nantes! Not for long, as we leave for La Rochelle tomorrow, but it is nice to be back for a bit.
After a wonderful sleep in our little room, we woke up for another delicious meal--breakfast! It was too good. The owners had about 8 different kinds of homemade jams, ranging from fig caramel nut, myrtille berry, and apricot, to tomato zuccinni. They were all delicious. My parents also got to try Brioche for the first time, which is a sweet bread made with milk. They loved it.
After breakfast, we unfortunately had to say goodbye to the Ammeux family, as we were heading towards Nantes and they were heading back to Le Mans. We were sad to say goodbye, but know that we will see each other again someday. Who knows when, but it will happen.
Open door leads to our room

The B&B

We got on the road, but thanks to a recommendation from a man staying at the B&B, we stopped at a Montrichard winery not too far away before we left. It was really beautiful. A bit high up, it was under a castle and looked over a valley, so the scenery was beautiful. We took a tour of the caves, which in total span 15km! We had a guide, thank goodness, or else we would have been completely lost. It was really fun to see the wine making process. And of course, we bought some wine to take back with us and also as gifts.
Bottles and bottles of wine in the fermentation process

Mom and I wine tasting

Parents with our purchases and the beautiful scenery
After a bit of a drive, we arrived in Nantes! Once we got in the city I was gripping my Dad's seat constantly, as the driving was complicated, even with the GPS. I was happy to finally arrive at their hotel. After my parents settled in, they finally got to see my room. They thought it was pretty small and don't know how I lived here all year!
After getting a few groceries, we headed downtown for dinner. On the way, I showed them Place Royale and the Passage Pomeraye. Then we ate at the Heb Ken creperie and it was delicious as usual.
Place Royale

We had a lovely evening. After dinner we went for a nice walk to wear off our dinner. Then my parents headed home for an early sleep!
In not too long, I am meeting my parents to go for a run so that I can show them where I run in Nantes. Then we will have a picnic lunch somewhere and I will show them the castle, the cathedral, and anything else interesting that I can think of. In the evening, we are going to my host family's house for dinner! Should be fun!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Les Chateaux: Cheverny et Chenonceau

And the last full day with my old host family is over. What a great day it was!
We left Le Mans this morning in the direction of the Chateau de Cheverny, one of my favourites from last time. It was a gorgeous sunny day with just a few clouds. On the way, we stopped to take a quick picture in front of the Chateau d'Amboise, where I stayed near last time.
 We got to Cheverny around noon so we had a picnic lunch in the grounds. Afterwards, we saw the castle! It was even better than last time I saw it because I was allowed to take photos inside. The interior is extremely well furnished, well preserved, and very beautiful. Plus, I didn't know this, but the current owners actually still live in the upstairs appartments! Crazy. I guess the castle has been in their family for a long time so it just keeps getting passed down. Imagine, living in a castle!
Parents and castle
A lot of prestigious hunting goes on in the area too, that is to say more traditional hunting... huntings dogs, horses, the whole nine yards! As such, they house about 90 hunting hounds at this castle. My Dad has decided that he wants to bring one home to replace poor Shadow (NOT). Shadow 2.0?
He loves them.
After Cheverny, we were on the road again headed to Chenonceaux. It is another very beautiful castle, spanning the Cher river. There were even some brave canoers on the water, though they were horrible at steering. The castle is beautiful, but it also has gardens, and old farm village, a maze, and beautiful forests.
Mom and Dad at Chenonceaux

Tulip garden
After seeing the castle, we were all quite exhausted so we headed to our accomodation for the night. Benoit found the place, called a Chambre d'Hotes. It is like a B&B, except better! It is in a really quaint little house in a town just beside Chenonceaux, and each family has their own room. Our room has a little loft bedroom where I am. My Mom thinks I am going to sleepwalk and fall down the steep stairs. I won't.
We all ate dinner together, the Ammeux family, mine, and another French family from Toulouse. The meal was superb. All the food was regional, and a lot made right here at this B&B. We started with an aperatif of pork paté on toast and a delicious drink that was a mixture of an alchol made from some spiky plant and rose wine. Then we had white wine with an excellent salad of eggs, pork, lettuce, croutons, and tomatoes.Then we had red wine with an incredible main course: wild boar (shot by the owner), potatoes, and chestnuts. I was in food heaven. Then we had a cheese course of two different kinds of goat cheese and one cow cheese. After, we had dessert which was a chocolate and pear muffin with caramel drizzled on top, and tea to finish. I was, and AM, so full! It was such an incredible meal. I will probably have to be rolled off my plane into Canada.
The dining room. Cut out of the picture is a wild boar's head over the fireplace (not the one we ate though!)
The day was amazing. One thing both my parents and I have really enjoyed has been the chance to travel and live with a French family. It really makes a difference when you don't have to do as many touristy things, but rather you can learn more about the culture and the everyday life of the French. We are so grateful to have had this opportunity. They also visited us in Canada in the summer of 2008. When Camille and I signed up for our exchange, I don't think either of us knew how great the exchange experience would be and how rewarding it would continue to be. We now have really great friends from another country that we will surely keep contact with. We are very blessed.
Tomorrow: NANTES!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

St. Malo et Le Mont St. Michel

Another wonderful day with my parents and my old host family!
After a day of lots of rain and then a day with a lot of driving, we had lovely weather today and Mr. Ammeux drove, so my Dad could rest a bit. We set out around 9am for St. Malo, a little city on the water that was one of my favourites last time. Though it was windy, it was also sunny and very beautiful. It was high tide when we arrived and the waves were huge!
Dad and the Sea!
We had a great time chatting and walking along the fortified walls of the city. The view was incredible. The water was turquoise and like I said, very turbulent. There were some kids though, wearing wetsuits and lifejackets, playing in the waves before their sailing lesson. Crazy!
We continued walking along the water, and saw the statue of Jacques Cartier. He found our lovely country of Canada many years ago, via the St. Laurence River. He was from St. Malo, hence the statue.
After, we found some lunch at a little creperie and my parents had their first taste of galettes and real French crepes! I think they really enjoyed them. We were all very full afterwards.
Crepe time!
Mom and Dad with the fortified city
After St. Malo, we set off for the stunning Mont St Michel. If I had my brochure I would tell a fantastic history about it, but I am pretty tired and also can't find it. So here is the condesned version! Mont St. Michel began construction around the 10th century, but wasn't finished until about the 18th. It is an Abbey and village constructed on a giant rock that juts out of the sea, around which there are lots of strong tides. You can see for miles on the Mont, and since it was clear it was beautiful.
Mom and Dad

Dad and I
We spent a few hours wandering through the village and eventually viewing the huge abbey. It was gorgeous. The last time I was here was in 2008, and that time it was very rainy. So this time, I felt very lucky to have sun and I found it much more impressive! I also didn't realize that people actually live on the rock in small houses. Of course, it costs a lot and you always have tourists near you, but for some it has been their home for years. The houses are beautiful too. The Abbey was very big, and there are still monks who live near it and who practice their rituals at Mont St. Michel. We saw one praying in a chapel. It was pretty neat.
Windy! Dad, Camille, Elisabeth, Mom

Goodbye Mont St. Michel
After a long day, it was about 6pm when we left Mont St. Michel. We got back on the road and had a bit of a detour but made it back to Le Mans just after 8pm. It was a fantastic day, with great weather and great company. My parents really loved it too.
When we got back, Claire and Laure had once again prepared appetizers and dinner for us. We looked at some pictures that Benoit took while we had our appetizer, then sat down to eat. They made us quiche lorraine and ratatouille. It was delicious!
The two families
All in all, we had a wonderful day and are really enjoying being with the Ammeux family. They have been so kind and serving to us and we feel very fortunate to have a French family to travel with. It is nice not to just do the touristy thing.
Tomorrow, we are heading off to see the castles of Cheverny and Chenonceau, and staying near the second one. Then on Friday, I finally get to show my parents Nantes!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach

Time for a recap! I didn`t get to write yesterday because we had a busy evening (well, we ate a leisurely dinner but then I had to find a hotel in Nantes for my parents--harder than it seems) and then we up early today.
Yesterday, my parents and I went to Vimy Ridge for the 95th Anniversary of the battle. It was an incredible day, but so incredibly cold. It was overcast, rainy, and cold. But this only made you think more about what the soldiers went through to claim that ridge!

So we arrived in the morning, just in time to witness a silent march of 5000 Canadian students, all wearing red jackets, to a morning ceremony. This was the only time you will ever see 5000 high school students being totally silent. It was pretty neat. But the best part was the person that we actually managed to spot in the crowd...
My brother!!!!
He was there on a school trip, but we didn't think we'd see him. Well, we did, we got to walk with him, and catch up a bit on his trip! They had wonderfully warm weather in Rome, Switzerland was great, and he was really enjoying France. We even got to snap a quick family photo...
It was probably the highlight of my day. We saw a bit of the student ceremony, checked out the memorial, and then went to the exhibit. Afterward, we got ready for the big ceremony, attended by the governor general. What was too bad was that it was so long, and the ceremony was outside. It was so cold that we couldn't feel our fingers or our toes. We really wanted to stay for the whole thing, but we were just so cold that it was hard to appreciate the service. I snapped a quick pic of the GG, and then we left. I was quite torn-- I didn't want to leave, but it is hard to concentrate over the chattering of teeth.
David Lloyd Johnston
The poor students had to stay for the whole time. We saw some back at the hotel afterwards and they were just soaked and freezing. Too bad. Hopefully they enjoyed the service though, because it was really well done from what I saw.
In the evening, we went back to the same brasserie as before and had another great meal. We returned to the hotel, I found a place in Nantes with a kitchenette, free parking, and good reviews (only took an hour...) and we all went to bed.
This morning, we woke up bright and early and were on the road. It was a long day of driving, as it took about 4.5 hours to get to Caen. After a few wrong turns, we eventually met up with Camille, my old exchange student, and her parents. it was amazing to see them again. It has been about 4 years! We all drove to Juno Beach together and had lunch near the centre, then actually went to see the Juno Beach Centre. I have already been, but it was great again.
Parents and I

Camille and I

Chilly beach!
Afterwards, manned with our GPS machine and our human GPS, Camille, we drove back to Le Mans where we will be spending a couple nights where I once lived for three months. We had a lovely dinner all together and I got lots of translating practice.
Tomorrow, we are off to Mont St Michel and St. Malo. Pray for good weather!!!
Sorry if this post wasn't as detailed, but I'm feeling fairly tired and believe it is time to go to sleep. it was a fantastic, but long day. I will share more details about what it is like to be back here soon!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Day 2 in Lille

Hard to believe that the second day with my parents has come and gone! Time really flies when you are having fun. Even my mom can't believe that it is Monday tomorrow.
Today we slept in a bit but woke up just in time to make it to church. We somehow managed to find an English speaking Anglican church, so we went there for Easter service. It was pretty nice! There were a lot of British people, but we also met a really nice American lady from Boston who had been living in Lille for 16 years. The service was pretty good and interesting too. Traditional hymns, call/response readings, pretty typical. The minister did an interesting bit for the kids where she related a giant chocolate Easter egg to the tomb of Christ and then smashed it with a hammer (which represented God's power). The kids went crazy over the chocolate egg, but they were happy when they got to eat it afterwards.
Mom and Dad at the front of the church

Dad and I in front
Church we saw after our service

After church, we made our way back to the hotel. On the way, I convinced my parents to stop in at a bakery for their first taste of French pastries and viennoiseries... we got pain au chocolat (my first since lent began) and a chocolate macaron. Both delicious. Afterward, we went on a nice run, the sun was out, and we discovered a really beautiful park with a little zoo and a citadel. Oh, and my Dad had peanut butter for the first time in 40 days (that's what he gave up for lent).
Peanut butter!

After we showered, we went for another walk downtown. We walked to a gorgeous Notre Dame cathedral, which was actually built in the 1800s but looked like it had been refurbished (maybe destroyed and rebuilt after the war??).

The front looked like it was having some work done, while the back looked older. It was great to walk through and there was even a short organ concert.
Afterwards, my camera died and we walked to visit the zoo that we ran by. It was free, and pretty cute, but we walked through quickly because we were pretty cold.
Afterwards, we wandered around looking for a restaurant. After checking out many different menus, we finally settled on a little brasserie/restaurant that also made its own beer and it turned out to be a great find. There was great beer, a great atmosphere, and really good food. There was a lot of variety too. A nice thing about French restaurants is that they let you linger over your food and won't bring the bill until you ask for it, so you can take as much time to sit at the table and visit as you want. We had a great evening.
Now we are just watching a movie and relaxing, because we are going to be up in good time tomorrow so that we can go to Vimy Ridge! Maybe we will even see my brother there.